Friday, July 07, 2017

Cheap Trick - We're All Alright!

Review by Mike Kimmel

It's somewhat odd to be a die-hard music fan and, in checking on the new releases, you see that a band that's basically grown up right alongside of you is coming out with a new release. It can be a really good feeling! Of course, on the flip side it can be a really bad feeling. It all depends.

Case in point - not the case in point that is the subject of this piece, but a good example nonetheless. I've been a Uriah Heep fan for years. Never heard of them until I saw a copy of Demons and Wizards on a record store's new release rack. I HAD to have that CD. Back then I bought a lot of stuff because I liked the album cover or the title or the name of one of the songs on the album. You know, your basic real high-class scientific reasoning. I loved the album and the next few releases. Somewhere, however, it snuck into my reality that maybe I'm just buying these out of loyalty, because the album really isn't that good. No worries though. Wake the Sleeper came out, and I'm doggoned glad I stayed a Heep fan for all those years.

Chuck Berry is another great example. He certainly wasn't ever going to break the bank with his formulas. No sir, new ground may be scratched at, but most assuredly there probably won't be a shovel of that dirt turned even if it IS his first album of new material in 38 years. Spoiler alert! Buy the new Chuck Berry album, Chuck. It occurred to me while listening to it that you don't have to break any banks or turn any shovels or write any books. Folks, the man wrote THE book by which others were able to practice their art. They owe HIM. Mr. Berry (RIP, sir) owes the music industry nada.

I started out talking about another recording artist, however, and I have not yet even mentioned them. We're All Alright was released by Cheap Trick on June 16, 2017. In my opinion, this is a band that has hardly released an album that was not worth owning. To prove that, if all goes well (or as my grandmother used to say, "Good Lord willin' and the dam don't break"), I'll have a series of write-ups on all of the releases Cheap Trick has done through the '80s. I'm reasonably certain it's going to be every '80s release, although it may be restricted to "every '80s release that has had a deluxe remastered edition".

I'll kinda saunter up to this one nice and slow, just to reiterate the discography leading up to where we are now.

1990 saw Busted, which I thought was something of a disappointment. It wasn't bad, but to be fair, they'd blazed through the '80s releasing albums other bands should be honored to even stand beside, let alone be associated with. The reissue showed that 20 years may not have changed the original effect of the songs, but it did allow the addition of several tunes, many of which were very good.

Briefly about Woke Up With a Monster: this was a release that I felt saw the band swimming even more frantically trying to find the sweet spot they'd lost less than a half decade earlier.

The second eponymous release (the first on Red Ant Records) hinted that the guys may have started to grab a foothold and work their way back to the absolute world class act they'd been for so long.

With 2003's Special One featuring "Scent of a Woman" and "Low Life in High Heels", they were no longer running around the platform waiting for someone to drop a medal that they could take home. They showed they were on the way back. With a group this talented, you knew it was only a matter of time before they got it back together.

Though fans and critics appeared to love Rockford in 2006, I was still questionable. It was Cheap Trick, but how much of the accolades were due to the folks who felt that the band's loyalty to its home town was worth at least a couple of votes. It was by no means bad, but it wasn't the Cheap Trick for which I was searching.  

The Latest, released in 2009, came the closest I think I've ever been to disliking a Cheap Trick release. To me…well, I likened it to what the Beatles would sound like if they were still around and not on LSD anymore. Aww c'mon, guys. I've seen two bands more than once in my concert going history: you and KISS. Now you're about to get me to vote you out of my cranial mall of fame! Please, no! Please don't do that!

Enter Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello in 2016. As someone who has come up with some fairly questionable book titles, article titles, song titles, band names, album titles, etc., I saw this title and knew it was doomed. I'm done with Cheap Trick. In the immortal words of the chorus of the first track from the excellent 1983 release Next Position Please, "I Can't Take It!" It's my job to listen, though, and so listen I did. Over and over and over. THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!

They'd taken quite a bit of time between releases since the late '80s, so I was quite surprised to see We're All Alright coming out a year later. When ya get on a roll, ya get on a roll. Maybe that's what happened here. "Holy caramel-scented cucaracha, Batman!" I liked the goofily-entitled predecessor to We're All Alright, but this one is something else.

The first thing I have to comment on – because I really like it and I think it's definitely about time – is that you hear a lot of Petersson's bass. You can tell who it is playing, but it's like he tossed his worries about what might go wrong to the side and let 'er rip. And make no mistake: HE… SOUNDS… GREAT…

The release opens with "You Got It Going On". How long has it been since you've heard Nielsen throw a sloppy lead into a rocker just for kicks? Check out the first track. Phew.

"Long Time Coming?" I think that's my opinion about the album in its entirely. I think Trick has put out several albums that were good from start to finish. This tune is better than the CD opener, and near the middle of the song you realize that whoever is driving hasn't taken his foot off the gas yet, and that's a very good thing.

"Nowhere" marks the first song (after the four on Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello) with Rick Nielsen's son and Cheap Trick Drummer Daxx Nielsen included in the credits. It's another great tune, but I can't figure out what it's about yet.

"Lolita" was one of the tracks released by the band during its PledgeMusic campaign to fund the album. I looked at the title, listened to the song, and tried checking the lyrics. Came up empty on everything except for the fact that, yep, it rocks too.

"Brand New Name on an Old Tattoo" is the sixth track; and in case you've lost count, this is the sixth song spent with their foot on your throat and the P.A.s angled directly at your ears. By now you should realize that you're in love with this release. This sixth song? What an excellent title!

Number 7 is a ballad of sorts. "Floating Down" is a little more upbeat than your basic ballad tends to be, but that's still OK. Zander has that type of voice – even after stressing it out over lo these many years.

"She's Alright" talks about his friendly female acquaintance who stops on by whenever she wants, takes what she needs and leaves and that's alright with him. I s'pose it would be with me as well. It's a little slower than most of the rest of the CD, and it's a confusing "trichotomy" of Cheap Trick, Bob Dylan, and Kid Rock. Take a listen. You're just going to have to take my word on this one until you give it a spin on your own.

Track nine and the next to the last on the CD (or is it?) will, if given the chance, burn the ear hairs out of your ears if you listen to it. Nielsen goes crazy with another one of his patented, sloppyistic, cliffhanger leads. Petersson drags out some bass that we haven't heard from him for years.

The CD winds up (or down, depending on your point of view) with "The Rest of My Life". There are hints of the Fab Four in several spots on this release, like there are in every Trick release. This song really lets it wander to the forefront. It's one of the few times I don't mind it at all. See, I'm not (nor have I ever been) much of a Beatles fan, and it's always been very easy to point out similarities between the boys from Rockford and the boys from Liverpool.

Guess what! You may think there are only 10 songs on the CD. Wrongo, Mary Lou. You'll be surprised when track 11 kicks off sounding like a cross between the Beatles and Herman's Hermits. That may be a fantastically accurate description; however, it's "Blackberry Way", which is a cover of a tune originally done by The Move. This isn't the first Move cover tune Cheap Trick has done. Some time ago they did one of my favorite Move tunes: "Brontosaurus". Even though the Move cover is a tad slower than much of the stuff on We're All Alright, it's as slow as you get for the time being.

"Like a Fly" rocks and sizzles until there's no fly to worry about. So as such, there's no need to worry what that "Fly on the Wall" might have heard.

"So if you want my love/Just don't put me in the middle of your hell". That's part of the chorus for lucky number 13 in the US Deluxe Edition. It actually sounds like a reasonable request coming from one half of a burgeoning love affair. But that's it for this Trick release.

Even though Bang, Zoom, Crazy kinda sorta made me want to listen to more Cheap Trick, We're All Alright makes me want to listen to this CD over again and then find that another subsequent release had snuck out while I was ensconced in my headphones.

-Mike Kimmel

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